Homework Reform Petition
We, the undersigned parents of students attending schools in the Pleasanton Unified School District, believe that for the sake of the well-being of our families and the quality of education provided for our children, PUSD must immediately undertake a diligent evaluation and revision of the current district homework policy and related practices. For all grades, both the quantity of homework (amount assigned) and the quality of homework (academic value) need to be addressed. We believe that there are many negative aspects of homework including, but not limited to, less time for other worthwhile after-school pursuits such as physical activities, religious instruction, and social interaction. Homework adds another dimension of stress to our already busy family lives, and if our children spend even 15 minutes daily on homework, we want to know that it is time well spent. Even 15 minutes of childhood is precious! As stated on the Center for Public Education website, we believe that: "The link between homework and student achievement is far from clear." Therefore, homework should never be assigned as a substitute for what should be accomplished in the classroom, and should only be assigned when the district and parents can be confident that it is clearly: 1) Academically valuable 2) Reinforces or enhances the curriculum 3) Developmentally appropriate 4) Designed interesting and enjoyable 5) Followed up with essential feedback. We believe that the primary purpose of homework is to improve academic learning, and while the development of positive character traits may be a side benefit of homework, we believe such moral guidance to be primarily the parents' responsibility. We believe that homework should never be assigned solely for purposes such as developing initiative and self-direction (as listed as purposes of homework in the current PUSD Homework Policy). We believe that this should mean district consideration of the elimination of homework completely in the lower grades, especially in light of reputable research which concluded: "Homework had the greatest impact on the achievement level of high school students on standardized tests, a moderate impact on middle school student achievement, and no impact on student achievement in the primary grades." ("Homework for All-In Moderation" H. Cooper, Educational Leadership April 2001, p. 34-38). We believe that time limits on homework should not exceed those of a consensus in the informed educational community, and that the goal should always be to keep homework to a minimum. We never want to see our children, at any age, bring home assignments which are simply non-productive "busywork", such as coloring projects. We do believe that homework assignments can be better designed to be both fun and effective. SPECIFIC REFORM RECOMMENDATIONS: * We believe the official PUSD Homework Policy should be immediately(but carefully) reviewed, evaluated, and revised as deemed necessary. Both the evaluation and policy revision process should involve input from parents. * We believe that a system for the consistent quality and quantity of homework needs to be established and that homework should be constantly and diligently monitored by the district. * We believe that a vehicle (such as an Ombudsman) should be established by the district for parent concerns and complaints regarding inappropriate homework and must be available beyond the classroom and teacher (either at the school or district level). * We believe that PUSD teachers must receive enhanced training in the development and administration of homework as an effective learning tool, and that they should be held accountable for their individual homework practices. Teacher performance reviews should include evaluation of the teacher's adherence to the district homework policy and the teacher's demonstrated ability to effectively utilize homework assignments to enhance the quality of education. Homework should never be allowed to cover up for classroom weaknesses. * We believe that the both the amount and type of homework assigned need to be made more consistent among teachers of the same grade, and that ALL, not just some, should be posting their homework assignments online weekly. This will allow parents to become better partners with educators and give families an opportunity to better plan for the burden that homework causes. * Recognizing the many and unique abilities and learning styles of our children, as well as the obvious varied cultural backgrounds of the families of Pleasanton students, we believe that it is imperative that a "differential" educational approach be applied to homework, resulting in both an increase in learning and a decrease in the perceived burden that homework imposes on each family. * Lastly but maybe most importantly, we believe that to maintain its position as a highly rated school district in the state, PUSD must establish itself as dynamic and progressive educational leader and role model in the 21st century. To do so, PUSD should explore both innovative methods and technological solutions to improve the value of, while reducing the dependency on, HOMEWORK.